Saturday, August 16, 2014

AFI's 25 Greatest Actresses, Part 3

I'm on a roll here, so I'm just going to keep this countdown going (we'll possibly have a quick break in-between Parts 3 and 4, but we're only at the halfway point here so lots of great actressing to come).  If you missed Parts 1 or 2, please click here and here so you're all caught up.  And now, onto the last nine actresses from the AFI's 25 Greatest Actress countdown.

17. Lillian Gish (1893-1993)

Oscar Nominations: Gish would receive only one Oscar nomination in her career for the bawdy western Duel in the Sun.  The Academy wisely gave her an Honorary Oscar at the 43rd Academy Awards for an extraordinarily long (it would stretch 75 years) career.
Probably Best Known Today For: Her incredible longevity, and having a name that is synonymous with Silent Era cinema.  She doesn't have a specific film role that people know her from, but the name Lillian Gish conjures a bygone era of Hollywood.
My Favorite Performance: Her career stretched so many decades and so many periods it's difficult to pick a specific favorite, so I'm going with two and I don't care what you think.  If it's Silent Era Gish, it would have to be her mesmerizing work as Eternal Motherhood in Intolerance (a film that has to be seen to be believed), but if it's Sound Era Gish surely I would need to go with her work as Rachel Cooper (forever brandishing that gun) opposite Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: It would probably have to be one of the D.W. Griffith films (she starred in all five of his most acclaimed and successful pictures), and considering it contains one of the most iconic images of her, I'll go with Gish floating on ice in Way Down East.

18. Shirley Temple (1928-2014)

Oscar Nominations: Temple never received a competitive Oscar nomination or win, but she did pick up the first Juvenile Award at the Oscars in 1934.
Probably Best Known Today For: Being the quintessential child star.  Like Gish, very few people could name an actual Shirley Temple movie, but everyone knows who she is, thanks to those dimples and her curly hair.  Her moniker is also synonymous with a fruity non-alcoholic cocktail that every little kid has in hopes of emulating the fancy (not so angelic) drinks their parents are imbibing.
My Favorite Performance: All right, the third leg of this competition is when my shame grows exponentially.  I have never seen a single child performance of Shirley Temple's.  That said, I have seen some of her work as an adult, and though it has been many (MANY) years since I last saw it, I actually remember her fondly in John Ford's Fort Apache.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: Clearly there's a few that I need to get caught up with, so I don't know if I should cite Temple on the staircase with Bill Robinson in The Little Colonel, her pining for "Animal Crackers in Her Soup" in Curly Top, her iconic work as Johanna Spyri's titular heroine in Heidi, or jumping aboard the good ship lollipop in Bright Eyes.  I probably need a marathon.

19. Rita Hayworth (1918-1987)

Oscar Nominations: Ms. Hayworth is our third performer to never win or be nominated for an Academy Award, proving that clearly the bombshells did not play well with classical AMPAS (the other two so far being Marilyn and Mae West).
Probably Best Known Today For: Her iconic looks and glamour.  Though not as central to pop culture as Marilyn, she was the 1940's equivalent of the actress, and her name conjures sophisticated beauty and a spectacular mane of red hair.  She also has a key role (as a poster) in The Shawshank Redemption, which many modern film stars will recognize her photo from.
My Favorite Performance: This is going to make me hang my head, but as much as I hate to admit it, I don't believe that I have ever seen a Rita Hayworth movie.  I was always entranced by her beauty as a cinema-adoring young man, but without AMPAS to guide me in her direction I never got into one of the movies.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: Surely Gilda has to be at the top of the list (I have seen her "put the blame on Mame" in film clips, of course), what with her brilliant hair-tossing.  My adoration of Orson Welles also means that The Lady from Shanghai would also be high on my wish list.

20. Lauren Bacall (1924-2014)

Oscar Nominations: Bacall would receive an Oscar nomination very late in her career for The Mirror Has Two Faces (losing in a major upset to Juliette Binoche).  In 2009 she would receive an Honorary Academy Award "in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures."
Probably Best Known Today For: Her short but memorable marriage to Humphrey Bogart.  Bogie and Baby are one of those couples like Liz and Dick and Paul and Joanne that continue to dominate the public's obsession with Hollywood romance to this day (Brangelina, anyone?).
My Favorite Performance: I mentioned this in my obituary to Bacall, but To Have and Have Not remains my favorite of her work.  I love the sheer confidence that she portrays, never really seeming the nineteen-years-old she is onscreen, and commanding that leading role in a way few other actors could in their debut performances.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I have seen half of the Bogie/Bacall filmography, and of the two I have remaining, I think The Big Sleep is probably the more pivotal movie to check out (rather than Dark Passage), though both flicks are in my Netflix queue.

21. Sophia Loren (1934-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Loren received two Oscar nominations in her career, winning for Two Women in 1961 (the first person to win for a foreign-language film).  She would go on to win an Honorary Oscar in 1991 for her body of work.
Probably Best Known Today For: For starters, thankfully being alive and still working (the only woman on this list still with us).  Loren recently starred in Rob Marshall's Nine, but is probably best known for her enduring beauty.  Consistently considered one of the most striking and attractive women in the history of cinema, she was a major star at the height of America's fascination with foreign language cinema. (Completely Random Aside-I once had a car that I named after Loren because the car was so pretty).
My Favorite Performance: I am pretty lax in my Loren film-watching, but I can claim that I have seen her Oscar-winning work in Two Women, and for lack of a better choice, I'm going to go with that for my favorite (still have a lot to see here).  I also remember really liking Houseboat as a kid.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I am going to go with Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, which unites Loren with one of her favorite directors (Vittorio de Sica) and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

22. Jean Harlow (1911-1937)

Oscar Nominations: Like our three other major sex symbols on this list, Harlow would never be nominated for or win an Academy Award.
Probably Best Known Today For: Being the original Marilyn.  Harlow was to the 1930's what Rita was to the 1940's and Marilyn was to the 1950's-a bombshell the public couldn't get enough of, and like Monroe, she is also remembered for her tragic early demise (from kidney disease in 1937 at only 26).
My Favorite Performance: I could totally cheat here and say City Lights, which is indeed one of my favorite silent films and a truly wonderful movie, but Harlow has only a bit part in it.  As a result, Harlow joins Rita Hayworth on the list of actors whom I have seen no major movies of their filmography.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: At this point, everything, clearly.  I'm most looking forward to Red Dust, where she is at her most glamorous, and the critically-acclaimed Dinner at Eight.  Honestly, though, you could easily add Hell's Angels, The Public Enemy, Platinum Blonde, or Libeled Lady to that list and I would have no qualms.

23. Carole Lombard (1908-1942)

Oscar Nominations: Lombard only received one Oscar nomination in her career, for her work in My Man Godfrey in 1936 (she lost to Luise Rainer).
Probably Best Known Today For: If Lombard is known for anything today, it is likely her tragic demise.  Lombard, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and at the peak of her career tragically died in a plane accident when her aircraft crashed into a mountain.  The death was felt all over Hollywood, and the press heavily covered her mourning husband, Clark Gable.
My Favorite Performance: It's hard to really top My Man Godfrey, one of a string of truly brilliant comedies of the 1930's (the dramatic films, in my opinion, didn't hold up to the screwball masterworks of this era), and Lombard had wildly good chemistry with William Powell in the picture (this despite them having been divorced several years earlier-can you even fathom that happening now with someone like Brad and Jen or Tom and Nicole?).
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: Probably the Ernst Lubitsch classic To Be or Not To Be, which has been rescued by cinephiles after a tepid initial reception.

24. Mary Pickford (1892-1979)

Oscar Nominations: Pickford received one Oscar nomination in her career, and thanks to her insane celebrity at the time she won despite its questionable quality (for Coquette).  A more appropriate award came over 45 years later when she picked up an Honorary Academy Award for her body of work.
Probably Best Known Today For: Being the original America's Sweetheart.  Much like Lillian Gish, most people would have difficulty coming up with any of her films, but her name brings to mind the Silent Era and her role as one of the biggest stars of early cinema (likely the biggest female star of the era).
My Favorite Performance: I'm going to balk on this one, as the only Pickford performance that I have seen is Coquette, which is tragically bad (possibly the worst Oscar-winning performance I have ever seen).  I don't think it'd be appropriate to pin one of Hollywood's most significant founders with that as their best work.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: Obviously most of her principle work in silent pictures.  I would probably start with Sparrows, which is considered one of her finest and most interesting pictures, and far more in her acting wheelhouse than Coquette.

25. Ava Gardner (1922-1990)

Oscar Nominations: Gardner would receive only one Oscar nomination in her career, for Mogambo in 1953 (she would lose that year to Audrey Hepburn).
Probably Best Known Today For: Her extremely high profile marriages to and relationships with some very famous men.  She was married three times, to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and most notably to Frank Sinatra in one of the most storied Hollywood marries of the 1950's.  She was also in a romantic relationship with Howard Hughes (chronicled in The Aviator, where she was played by Kate Beckinsale), and had a strong (possibly romantic) friendship with Ernest Hemingway.
My Favorite Performance: I haven't seen a lot of Gardner's work, but certainly my favorite of her performances was in Show Boat, partially because of Gardner but mostly because it's one of my mom's favorite films.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: Probably the classic 1959 drama On the Beach, where she stars opposite Gregory Peck and Fred Astaire in a movie about the fallout of nuclear war.

And there you have it (fifteen years after the fact)-a look at the 25 greatest actresses from the American Film Institute.  We'll continue our five-part series tomorrow, but in the meantime head to the comments and discuss today's nine actresses-who is your favorite in the bunch?  What are your favorites of all of their films?  And what movies did you just write down as ones you still need to see?

No comments: